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Why Is Ted Cruz Seeking Policy Advice from Frank Gaffney, a Leading Islamophobe?

Web ExclusiveMarch 28, 2016
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The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Frank Gaffney as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Gaffney has become one of Cruz’s top advisers. We speak to Jeremy Scahill and Matthew Cole of The Intercept about Gaffney’s record and his role advising Cruz.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Matt, I’d like to ask you about—we were discussing in the earlier segment one of the foreign policy advisers of Donald Trump, but you were mentioning that there’s a pretty interesting foreign policy adviser for Ted Cruz who hasn’t gotten much attention.

MATTHEW COLE: Yeah, it came to my attention that Cruz has an adviser named Frank Gaffney, who is a far-right-wing neocon, but even more so is a, you know, neo-crusader, to steal Jeremy’s line. Gaffney is the person responsible, when he was running a think tank, his own think tank, for pushing the story line and the claims and allegations that Michele Bachmann, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who rode the tea party wave into Congress and then rode it out, pushed, which was that there was a Muslim Brotherhood penetration of the U.S. government under the Obama administration and that Huma Abedin, who is Secretary Clinton’s closest aide—and say what you will—

AMY GOODMAN: And the wife of Anthony Weiner.

MATTHEW COLE: And the wife of Anthony Weiner. And say what you will about—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Almost like her adopted daughter.

MATTHEW COLE: Yeah. And say what you will about her or what you think, she certainly is not, you know, a Muslim Brotherhood plant. And it was a—the type of Islamic fearmongering that is pervasive on the right and sort of startling for—to be an adviser for a major political candidate for president, is—I think Gaffney deserves a lot of attention. And I think, recently, when the—in the reaction to the Brussels attack this week, Senator Cruz made a statement that the Muslim neighborhoods in the United States needed essentially to be surveilled and patrolled to prevent such things. And I think what you will find is that his views on those things tack very closely and drift towards Frank Gaffney territory. And Gaffney, I think, deserves—and Cruz, subsequently, deserve a lot of scrutiny for his previous proposals, ideas, claims, which mostly are incendiary and false.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, the other thing—I mean, to go on, Matthew mentioned previously this figure, General Jerry Boykin. And if you recall, you know, he sort of came to public prominence—I mean, he was a well-known guy in the covert ops world and, you know, Black Hawk Down, all of that. You know, he had a long history. But because William Arkin obtained a recording of a speech that Boykin had given, where he was saying that—you know, that he knew that they were going to win in Somalia, because our god was stronger than their god—and it was a real, you know, crusader-type speech. And Boykin is sort of the most well-known example of religious fanaticism within certain elements of the U.S. military. But there—it’s pretty widespread in certain circles. There are a lot of people within the special operations community and elsewhere that subscribe to that general worldview that we’re seeing articulated by the selection of foreign policy advisers for both Cruz and Trump.

And so, you know, the—in a lot of ways, something that has been—you know, Matthew and I have both worked on these stories for a long time involving religiosity within that community. But something that’s sort of been quietly known is now being overtly and very publicly expressed by Cruz and Trump. And people like Gaffney and Joseph Schmitz—I mean, if either Trump or Cruz win and those guys are in Cabinet positions, they are basically going to declare war against Islam in an overt manner. And, you know, I think that we can laugh at the ridiculousness of Joseph Schmitz and Frank Gaffney, but if Cruz or Trump actually win and these guys are in positions of power, not just blabbing on Fox News, I think there’s going to be serious consequences. And they will have support in some elements of—very powerful elements of the U.S. military and intelligence community, which is very disturbing.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us, Jeremy Scahill and Matthew Cole, both of The Intercept. And we’ll link to your articles at democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

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